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Sport and the discourse on resilience, 1890-1940

Late 19th century saw physicians, academics, pedagogues, politicians, writers and soldiers use sport according to their specific intentions. While educators wanted to build character through sport, physicians intended to increase public health, and the military to breed strong soldiers. The underlying assumption was to make the Dutch people resilient, not only to withstand disease but also, on a more abstract level, to be able to cope with the challenges of modernity. This research focused on the intertwining of the discourse on resilience and sport on the one hand and the accompanying educational, medical, national, militaristic, imperialistic and Darwinistic assumptions on the other. Actors like the Dutch Olympic Committee, the scouting movement and the ‘Vereniging “Volksweerbaarheid”’ became inspired by the ideas and ideals of the Dutch came from abroad: the British Empire and its ‘public schools’, the German ‘Turnbewegung’ and the Olympic movement of French Pierre de Coubertin, and appropriated them. The Second World War terminated the notion of resilience as the premises behind sports and physical education. However, this did not imply that sports ceased to be laden with ideological value altogether. Today, higher morals on the fight against obesity, the promotion of social participation or even - when eleven men wear an orange jersey - national honour itself are at stake.

Supervisor: Marjet Derks

Researcher: Jelle Zondag

Start: 2014